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Evidence of meeting #43 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sims.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jennifer Irish  Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Next is amendment LIB-8.1.

Mr. Lamoureux.

7 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

We're withdrawing it, Mr. Chair.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Next is NDP-8.

Ms. Sims.

7 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

This amendment would require the minister to issue a stay for a removal order where humanitarian and compassionate application has been submitted by a foreign national and is still pending.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Is there any debate?

Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

7 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Chair, once again this amendment is extremely important. Many of us in our offices and in the news have heard of H and C applicants who have been issued a deportation order but with intervention have ultimately been granted permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds because of the strong merits of their application. H and C applicants should have the opportunity to have their cases heard. This is why this category exists, Mr. Chair. The risks are just far too great to risk deportation before the application is heard.

Should this clause remain as it is currently written, we will be removing discretion for humanitarian and compassionate grounds for the first time in Canadian history. The H and C option is for those who are being left behind in our immigration system. It has always existed in our immigration legislation and is an extremely important component of it. It would be unCanadian to have this removed from our immigration legislation.

Thank you.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

(Amendment negatived)

(Clause 13 as amended agreed to on division)

(On clause 14)

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Mr. Lamoureux, do you wish to speak to amendment LIB-9?

7 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Chair, I would move that Bill C-31 in clause 14 be amended by replacing line 8 on page 10 with the following:

or a designated foreign national, or a claimant from a designated country of origin who is inadmissible or who does not meet the

Mr. Chairperson, in essence, this allows the minister to make exemptions in individual cases. In one sense, it provides some further clarity in regard to it not being just foreign nationals. That's the purpose of the amendment.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Is there any debate?

(Amendment negatived)

Mr. Lamoureux, would you like to speak to amendment LIB-10?

7 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

We're going to withdraw that one, Mr. Chairperson.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Ms. Sims, would you like to speak to amendment NDP-9?

7 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

This amendment would require the minister to issue a stay for a removal order in cases where a humanitarian and compassionate application has been initiated by the minister and is still pending.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Ms. Sitsabaiesan

7 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Obviously, if the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration feels that a situation requires and warrants an application for permanent residency on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate grounds, this application should be allowed due process, and a deportation order should wait until this application has been finalized.

Additionally, we heard from Mr. Les Linklater, the assistant deputy minister at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, that his department has recently transitioned to an improved way to assess humanitarian and compassionate applications, as passed by Bill C-11 in 2011.

We need to allow these improvements to work through the system and evaluate their impact before wasting more time and money in rewriting these provisions yet again.

Thank you.

(Amendment negatived)

(Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to on division)

(On clause 16)

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We are now on clause 16 and amendment NDP-10.

Ms. Sims.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This amendment is to ensure that DFNs can obtain travel documents by deeming a designated foreign national, whose claim for protection is accepted, to be lawfully staying in Canada. I really want to quote something that was shared with us by Donald Galloway on May 3, in which he tells us that:

Clause 16 tells us that only permanent residents should be given a travel document. I imagine this is because we are concerned about granting refugee status to individuals and then granting them a travel document and, lo and behold, they expose an affront to the system, if you like, by returning to their country of origin.

The single point I'll make at this stage is that this is not the way the system currently works. A travel document to be given to a refugee is not—I repeat, not—valid for that person to return to their country of origin. That is the law as it currently exists. I think that is being forgotten [in this clause].

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, Ms. Sims.

Further debate?

Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As my colleague Ms. Sims has quoted, we heard from many of our witnesses that access to travel documents—not to travel to their country of origin but travel to a neutral country—is extremely important to designated foreign nationals.

I want to add more of Mr. Donald Galloway said. He is, of course, from the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. He continued to say, after Ms. Sims' quote, that:

...genuine refugees who are fleeing often cannot stick together. They end up in different countries. There are families I know in Victoria who have very close family members in Sweden. They need to be able to get and see these family members to look after them. They need the travel document in order to do so. The travel document is something that we undertook to provide when we signed on to the refugee convention.

Clause 16 tells us that we're going to, from now on, give a narrow interpretation of the refugee convention and only supply this travel document to refugees. If they have come here in an irregular manner and are designated, we're only going to give this travel document to individuals after they become permanent residents, after the five-year process, or after they gain a temporary permit.

Once again, that's a five-year process.

He continued:

When it signed up to the convention, Canada attached a reservation. The reservation that it attached said that for two articles we would like to give a narrow interpretation of the phrase “lawfully staying”. These two articles relate to the provision of welfare services. Canada did not exercise its right to attach that reservation in relation to eight other articles, one of which is article 28. In other words, with full knowledge of what we were doing, we signed up to this international regime of granting families who had been split up the chance to go to other neutral countries in order to meet up with their family. That is what's at stake here in clause 16.

It looks like a very odd interpretative clause. I think it's essentially important, that it is really vital to understanding what we're doing. I fear that it may have been attached there because of a mistake. I fear that it is actually there because the government, or the drafters, were actually concerned about people returning, using this document in a way that they are currently not entitled to do. If you go to the passport office, if you go to their website, you will see that these documents are not valid for return to the country of origin.

Many other witnesses have described the ways they have seen their clients using these travel documents, highlighting that under current, existing legislation, these documents cannot be used to travel to their country of origin. They described how, for many refugees who arrive in Canada, this is the only way they can see their family members—for years.

These are people who are in limbo. Canada has not decided to deport them, but it also will not land them. Some are in limbo for 10, 20, or 30 years. To these people, having access to travel documents that allow them to visit a neutral country is the only means they have to see their families. By removing access to these documents, we are asking people who we have pledged to protect to endure enormous personal hardship.

For these reasons, Mr. Chair, I believe this clause should be amended. Thank you.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Mr. Lamoureux has the floor.

May 9th, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This particular clause isn't that far off, even though it is different from the one we're proposing.

What I would suggest to the government is that they should give serious consideration to the consequences of what this particular bill is doing. It's a fairly simple, straightforward proposal. We believe that if you have a refugee here in Canada, he or she should have the ability to go to a third-party country to meet with family members.

Many would argue that it's cruel to try to intentionally keep families apart. Again, in my opening remarks I talked about how important it is for families to be kept together and about the additional cost of forcing them to be apart. At this point, I want to emphasize that this particular amendment deserves to have the government hopefully responding favourably, because it is all about families.

If you support the idea of families at least having the opportunity to get together, this is an amendment worth supporting.

Thank you.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Okay.

Is there further debate?

(Amendment negatived)

We'll have Mr. Lamoureux on LIB-11.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Chairperson, I would move that Bill C-31 in clause 16 be amended by replacing lines 41 to 43 on page 10 with the following:

staying in Canada when they are conferred protection or refugee protection status.

Again, from my understanding, this allows refugees to have access to having a travel document, something that we believe is critically important in terms of the foundation of a family. We believe that all refugees should be treated equally, whether they are deemed irregular or not irregular. They should be allowed to visit family members in third-party countries where they are able to reconvene. I don't think we should be doing anything to discourage it.

Again, we would appeal to the government to recognize the value of families and allow this particular amendment to pass.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

A point of order, Chair.

I'm just wondering if it's possible for you to actually ask who is in favour of and who opposes the motions. I believe that some of our votes are not being recorded, because you're asking, “Shall it carry?”

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

They're only recorded when someone asks to have them recorded.